Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Paradox of Choice

I ran into a TED conference message that I thought well worth listening to, particularly when listened to in light of LDS doctrines of eternity, mortality, agency, and gender identity. I would like to know what you think of it.

Warning: There are a few mild swear words and a brief moment of comic strip nudity. I think the message is worth it, but be aware of this before you click "play".


  1. I loved this presentation, as well as his book! Great read, significant insights in terms of the gospel. Isn't the fish bowl analogy at the end interesting? Thing of the limitations of our bodies, of our characters - maybe in the end a blessing in disguise...

  2. SilverRain,
    I thought this was very interesting and agree with much of what he said as I tend to view things in a similar way as he explained.

    But, I think it is over-generalizing to say that what he describes is true for everyone. For example, I know lots of people that would go and buy a pair of jeans and be perfectly happy with them, and I'm sure that many people just don't fit his model of experiencing less satisfaction because of increased choices.

    Also, he seemed to say that poor people with few or no choices would be happier with more choices. That could be true in some cases, and certainly poverty is not a good thing. But we also hear all the time of how happy many people are in third-world countries with their simple, humble way of life. For those that have aspirations of improving their living conditions, I would agree that they achieve this by increasing their skills and knowledge which results in having more choices. But I wouldn't make a blanket statement that all such people have these aspirations and would guess that many are content to live as they are.

    I think it is interesting that the things we sometimes think will bring us happiness (more money, more things, etc.) often really only create a desire for more and better things...

  3. Now that was interesting. With all the choices in attire I wish he had chose someone else to pick his attire. :)

    His presentation reminded of a book I recently went back to reread. It was written over fifty years ago but is so relevant today. Here is a quote from the book The Affluent Society.

    "The family which takes its mauve an cerise, air-conditioned, power-steered and power-braked automobile out for a tour passes through cities that are badly paved, made hideous by litter, lighted buildings, billboards and posts for wires that should long since have been put underground. They pass on into countryside that has been rendered largely invisible by commercial art. (The goods which the latter advertise have an absolute priority in our value system. Such aesthetic considerations as a view of the countryside accordingly come second. On such matters we are consistent.) They picnic on exquisitely packaged food from a portable icebox by a polluted stream and go on to spend the night at a park which is a menace to public health and morals. Just before dozing off on an air mattress, beneath a nylon tent, amid the stench of decaying refuse, they may reflect vaguely on the curious unevenness of their blessings. Is this, indeed, the American genius?"

    There was a lot of truth in his presentation. It also reminded me of a column in the Washing Post a month or so ago about a guy who decided not make any more decisions for himself for two weeks. He just asked other people to make them. All the way from asking the person next to him in line at starbucks to pick his coffee to asking fellow travelers at the airport to pick his health plan.


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